MANILA— The Philippines will boost its inventory of rice, including imports, with the government encouraging private traders to ramp up their purchases, a senior agriculture official said on Tuesday.
Mercedita Sombilla, undersecretary for policy, planning and regulations at the Department of Agriculture, said the government was worried about rice supply but will properly schedule the imports to protect local farmers.
The Philippines, one of the world’s biggest rice importers, traditionally buys the staple grain mainly from its neighbor Vietnam.
But President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also agriculture secretary, on Saturday said supply from Vietnam might become limited as many other countries were now buying rice at the same time in preparation for the impact of the El Nino dry weather conditions on output.
The Philippines has also begun counting farm losses from typhoons, including Doksuri, which damaged rice and corn crops last week in northern provinces, and with more storms expected to hit the local agriculture sector in coming months.
Marcos has hinted at the possibility of seeking a supply deal with India, under a government-to-government arrangement, after the latter imposed a shock ban on exports of a key variety.
“We really need the help of the private sector in situations like this,” Sombilla said at a media briefing. “We really have to put in place the right interventions at the right time.”
—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor